A couple weeks back  while camping in Montana beside the Blackfoot River, I got a wild awakening:  a pretty stout earthquake.

There was no questioning what was going on. The birds even knew, waking up at 12:30 am. After our own shock at what had just happened-I think it shook for 30 seconds- the aftershocks began and were pretty constant for the next hour. I heard one rockfall rumbling into the river, surely not the only one as the Blackfoot, running clear the day before, was cloudy the next morning. As late as 10:30 am I felt a deep rumbling aftershock that had meadow grass moving all around with not a breath of wind.

For my friends who’ve spent time in California, tremors are part of life. Not for me. It turned out we were camped nearly on the epicenter for a 5.8 scale shaker. One remarkable part (of many) was how loud and deep the sound was, sound that came before the shaking.

The trip was also notable for having my device turned off for nearly two weeks. What did I miss? Nothing. What did I gain? I gained a needed respite from the aftershocks of that other earthquake, the one back in November still sending tremors out on a near-daily basis.

On one level I wish things would just settle down and some semblance of governance would begin. But with summer days already shortening, key appointments have yet to be made in many federal agencies, and about the only coherent policy agenda is to erase the policy agenda of President Obama. And that’s proving more complicated than expected.

Closer to home, we have federal employees afraid for jobs they were once proud to hold and deeply demoralized. Climate change? Don’t talk about it. The most common response to a number of questions are shrugged shoulders. It’s honest and you can’t be quoted.

On any number of fronts resources are fully deployed defending past gains and bedrock laws. The defensive work makes sense, as national monuments like Bear’s Ears and Escalante are truly targeted and climate policies cut. Thankfully, 38,000 people submitted comments in defense of Idaho’s Craters of the Moon, including Rep. Mike Simpson and Gov. Butch Otter-but really, is this a best use of our time? Every day diverts resources and creativity from solving real problems. That used to be what our country did.

At ICL, we’re still doing that: solving problems. Have you seen our recent report on Idaho’s sewage treatment plants stacking up over 1,700 violations? Over 80% of all Idaho sewage plants have violated the Clean Water Act in the last three years. The little town of Driggs had over 100 violations. Inkom’s plant tops the list and accounts for 11% of all the state’s violations.

It’s not enough to just point the problems  out. Where needed, ICL will file citizen enforcement cases to get these problems fixed. But what it really takes is government partnerships,  partnerships that create efficiencies and trust-between, for instance, the federal Environmental Protection Agency  and state Department of Environmental Quality-and that leverage  money these towns need. Instead, as tremors continue rumbling out of D.C., people are more inclined to just take cover.

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